One in Five At-Risk Seventh-Graders Admit to Sexting

Sexting of any kind associated with range of sexual behaviors, including oral, vaginal sex

TUESDAY, Jan. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Sexting behavior (sending sexually explicit messages and/or pictures) is not uncommon among seventh-grade adolescents and is associated with other sexual behaviors, according to a study published online Jan. 6 in Pediatrics.

Christopher D. Houck, Ph.D., from Rhode Island Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, and colleagues examined the prevalence of sexting behaviors among an at-risk sample of seventh-grade adolescents. The subjects were participating in a sexual risk prevention trial and had completed a computer-based survey at baseline.

The researchers found that 22 percent of participants reported having sexted in the past six months, with 17 percent sending sexual messages and 5 percent sending sexual messages and photos. Females and Latinos more frequently endorsed pictures (both P = 0.03). Sexting of any kind was linked to elevated rates of engaging in sexual behaviors, and the rates were higher for sending photos versus sending text messages only. The associations were consistent for various behaviors ranging from touching genitals over clothes (odds ratio, 1.98) to oral and vaginal sex (odds ratios, 2.66 and 2.23, respectively).

"These data suggest that phone behaviors, even flirtatious messages, may be an indicator of risk," the authors write. "Clinicians, parents, and health programs should discuss sexting with early adolescents."

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